Henri. What can we say about Henri? He?s a cheeky little monkey, that?s what he is. A naughty, naughty boy. And definitely NOT the messiah I thought him to be. (Gratuitous Pythonism, sorry.)? I shall tell you about him in a moment.
But allow me to start part of the way through as the beginning was a long time ago.
As I push the squeaky wheelbarrow full of feed buckets around the various paddocks and fields where I work I daydream and plan. I gaze covetously at the fields across the river and wonder about who owns them and if they will rent them to me.
?I imagine coming to work in a rowing boat instead of getting up at 5.15 am to drive 90kms in a very thirsty Land Rover that drinks more of my money than even I manage.
I figure that renting a dilapidated farm with 3 hectares would probably be less per month than my fuel costs so I decide to visit the estate agents in the area. Being constantly in a race against the sun to get home to do my own six equines I decide to start with the agents I pass en route. This turned out to be most fortuitous.
She had nothing.
Absolutely sod all that fitted any of my criteria.
However, three hours later when I arrived home (thank you Gilets Jaunes) there was an email waiting for me from the agent informing me that not half an hour after I left a man popped in with a house for sale that fitted my criteria perfectly. Yes. For Sale. I can?t afford to buy a house! I am poor. I have a house. Only a nutter would buy my house. I have been over zealous in the ?knocking down and knocking through? department and a little less zealous in the ?putting it all back together? department.? My bathroom looks like this:
How many people do you know who can photograpgh their bath from underneath?
Doesn?t cost anything to look though, does it? On opening the attachments it looked to be the perfect property.
On opening the car door on arrival ? it was not.? So?I said no and went on my way.
Less than a week later my phone ding-ding dinged at me just as I was leaving work. Several voicemail messages from an elderly, French voice. Male. Could I possibly help him back and bring-on 10 young horses.? ?I returned his call and told him that although I would love to I was struggling to manage 50 plus horses at work and 6 at home as it was. No-way could I manage another 10. Where are you? And out of curiosity who recommended me?
It was the bloke who?s house I had just viewed!!? The estate agent had given him my number and could we meet up for a chat as he had a proposition for me and wanted to show me something.? Oooh Er, Missus.? OK.? Why not.? Been a while since I have done something inadvisable.? And what could go wrong??
So, I met him at a pub, where he seemed to be telling me all about the perfect place for me to work with horses.? Starting with his 10 and then when they were sold he would help me with clients’ horses and all I had to do was cut brambles.? Um?? My french is quite good.? But I was beginning to suspect either I was missing something.? Or he was.? And I already have my perfect job.? I just want to live closer to it.?
We both got into my car and he directed me about 3kms to this:
I’m walking along behind him and my mouth is getting wider and wider open and drool is beginning to splash around my ankles and all the while he is gaily telling me I can use all the facilities free of charge along with 50 of the 120 hectares but when his horses are sold I can use the rest.? But he is getting on in years and can’t keep up with the brambles.? Would I mind cutting them back?? NOOO!? I would not mind in the slightest!!!!? I’ll start now if you want.?
Not wanting him to change his mind I started moving my horses over the very next week.? I lived in the Landie.? In January.? But Henri found me a little caravan.? Which is what I am sat in now typing this.
I think I had been there about a week when a woman in a little red car stopped in the lane and held her hand down on the horn for ages so I went over to see if she needed help.? Oh my word!? She started yelling at me and demanded to know if the owner knew I was there.? So I put on my best affronted face and informed her that I was there to work with Henri.? No Madame!? I am not a squatter!?
I started to settle in quite nicely.? Made friends.? Met a lovely lady who came over a couple of times a week to help me exersise my horses.? Posted a zillion updates on Facebook.? Told the world.? Shouted about my amazing new life only 15 minutes drive from work.? Started bringing my jumps over in the trailer.? And best of all started having lessons from my coach in my own arena (Indoor, outdoor.? Take your pick.)?
I thought what a fabulous place to use as a venue for hosting clinics.? I asked a friend of mine if his famous cousins would consider coming and doing a clinic.? I more or less volunteered my boss on social media without her consent after getting a bit drunk.? And had positive feedback from a couple of barefoot trimmers when I suggested they do a clinic teaching others.? All good.? The ideas were flowing.? I wondered if Albert Voorn, my coach’s coach, would be up for it.? Always good to get an Olympian on board, I feel.? lol? And if you are going to get carried away, why not do it in style?
Henri was really turning out to be a character.? Totally away with the faries but in a good way.? For example, he admitted to me that he was not the owner of the property but the caretaker.
Then one Sunday, almost 2 months in, something happened.? I had just returned from my house with the last of my jumps, unloaded them and erected them in a grid ready for the next day’s training.? I spotted Bernie Buzzard circling with 2 other buzzards I had not seen before.? Bernie liked sitting on my trailer and surveying her queendom.? I was engrossed in watching them.? Hands on hips, leaning back, gazing into the sky.? At one with nature.?
OOOOIIIIYYYYYY!!!!!!? MADAME!!!!!? VOUS!!!!? VOUS!!!!
When communing with nature you don’t always respond to obviously human demands for attention because they might be nothing to do with you.? Or unwanted.? Or unwarrented.? Or annoying.? But this one had something about it that made me look about for the source of the yelling.? Which I could not find.? At first.? Oh!? I see a head behind the bars of the yard.? It must be the owner.
I march towards him with a huge smile on my face ready to thank him for letting me stay here.? Henri has already explained that there is also the possibility of using the 20+ stables but I must talk with the owner before I use them even though I have the keys already.
WHO ARE YOU!? WHY ARE YOU LIVING ON MY LAND?? WHO’S HORSES ARE THESE??
Oh! Balls!? Stay calm.? Hello.? I am Ellie.? Henri …..
Henri?? Oh…? Henri?? OK…? He is (sighs) adorable but (sighs again) special.? (This is an abbreviated version of what was actually said whilst face-palming.)
Turns out the bloody owner had absolutely no idea I was on his land.? Red car lady was right!? I was a squatter!? I explained that I had only just, that day, finished moving all my stuff over.? Could I not rent some of it?
No.? Because the reason he was there was because he had just rented it out to another farmer and all the grass my horses had been merrily eating for the last 2 months was sold on the stalk hay.? And by now it is nearly the end of March.? Slightly limiting growing time.? Oops.
Three days he gave me to pack up.? I thought that quite reasonable considering he had no idea I was there until he pulled up and saw my decrepit and ancient Rice trailer in all it’s peeling paint-ness.? But he needed me to be off before the farmer arrived or he would be hard pressed to make excuses.
Another story developed here but this is not the time nor the place.? In short my boss said I could move everything over to her yard.? Then we did one of those A Frame hugs done by non-huggy people in a huggy situation.?
I must say at first I felt like I was imposing but I have been here 3 months now.? I have as many lessons as I want when she is not galavanting about Europe and in a tiny space of time I have my Galop 7, my amateur licence and the courage to go out there and get what I want.?
Today I would like to change the title of this blog slightly.? The “Before I am 50” is old hat.? New hat is 51 and a half.? Blaye Internationale is just the wrong side of right to be sufficiently right for these purposes.? So I am aiming to do my first international show in about 5 weeks.? Wish me luck!